16 Jun

The politics and policy around travel

A year ago next week, hundreds of people from across the travel industry gathered outside the Houses of Parliament to speak up for travel at the Travel Day of Action, which was organised by ABTA and colleagues from other associations. 

It was a day to be proud of as the industry came together to make our case to MPs and the media about the need for a safe reopening of travel and support for the sector.

Much has changed over the past year, and we have seen notable improvements in our engagement with Minsters and officials. For example, the UK Government acted quickly after the Omicron wave to remove all travel restrictions at the end of March – the first major economy in the world to do so. But the industry isn’t perhaps where we would have hoped to be at this point, with just three months of trade under our belts and facing significant operational challenges, particularly in recruitment.

Travel has been in the spotlight in recent weeks, with media and political attention on the travel issues some people experienced during the May-half term period. Earlier this week the BEIS Select Committee held a hearing on this topic. 

Of course, it is important that we fight our corner in the face of the recent criticism from Ministers about the root causes of some of the disruption. ABTA has done so by raising these issues with officials and submitting evidence to the BEIS Committee to set out the background of the difficulties travel faced during the pandemic, which were exacerbated by the Government’s refusal to offer sector-specific support and the lifting of furlough before the industry was back up and running. We now need Government to work with us, in a constructive spirit, to put in place measures to mitigate some of the worst effects for travellers and the industry.

As I wrote yesterday in my column for Travel Weekly, there is also a big agenda beyond those immediate restart challenges. To take a few, ABTA is still busy ensuring that Government learns the lessons from the pandemic, engaging directly with Ministers and also through our role on the COVID-19 inquiry, including around the challenges and solutions to the recruitment issues in the UK.

We’re also still working hard to find solutions to some of the staff mobility issues that stemmed from the UK’s departure from the EU, and addressing a number of consumer protection policy proposals and consultations that have been given extra focus by the experiences of the travelling public, and travel businesses, during the pandemic. 

Sustainability also remains a major area of scrutiny that we must work together on, across the entire travel sector, to put forward a positive and persuasive case that promotes the benefits that travel brings across the world and makes clear we remain a force for good. 

There’s much to do and ABTA’s role, as your advocate in Westminster and beyond, will be critical in furthering the industry’s recovery.

Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive